Police make arrest in case of stolen donations intended for cancer patient

adouglas@heraldonline.comJanuary 17, 2013 

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    To donate, write a check to the Emily Elkins Fund and mail it to: Emily Elkins Fund, c/o Family Trust Federal Credit Union, P.O. Box 10233, Rock Hill, SC 29731.

— The man accused of stealing $70 in donations intended for a 14-year-old girl with cancer was arrested Wednesday in Rock Hill on shoplifting charges, according to police reports.

Johnny Ray Kendricks, 50, of Rock Hill, faces three criminal charges, according to Rock Hill Police. At a bond hearing Thursday morning, a judge set his bond at $120,000.

Kendricks is charged with violation of the state lottery law, resisting police, shoplifting and petty larceny, said police spokesman Lt. Brad Redfearn.

He’s accused of stealing a donation jar from a gas station on Heckle Boulevard in July, according to police reports.

The store was collecting donations for Emily Elkins, 14, who is fighting cancer.

Paul Elkins, Emily’s dad, attended Thursday’s bond hearing where the judge called Kendricks a “disgrace.”

Elkins said he’s happy that Rock Hill Judge Ray Long set Kendricks’ bond high.

“My mouth dropped,” he said. “Because I was thinking it’d be a thousand, maybe two thousand. But they really mean business.”

‘Blessed to be her dad’

Elkins credits the Rock Hill Police Department for not giving up on finding a suspect nearly six months after the donation jar was stolen.

After leaving Thursday’s bond hearing, Elkins joined his daughter and her mom, Annie Brakefield, at a hospital in Charlotte where Emily endures rigorous chemotherapy and regular checkups.

Charlotte doctors gave Emily “good reports,” she said.

Emily said she doesn’t have time to dwell on Kendricks’ future or the fact he stole from her, because she’s preparing to meet a superstar next week.

She and her mom will have a meet and greet with Justin Bieber on Tuesday at his concert in Charlotte, thanks to nurses at the Levine Children’s Hospital who bought Emily tickets.

Emily plans to give the pop star a courage bracelet and T-shirt. She already knows one thing she wants to ask Bieber, she says.

“I’m just going to ask him if he could handle having cancer,” Emily said.

Handling cancer is hard, Emily said, but she’s made it through because of her family and an outpouring of support from the community.

In her room, she has a laundry basket full of cards – some from strangers. On particularly bad days, she said, the cards boost her spirits.

Emily’s “resilience,” her dad said, is inspiring.

“She’s taught me a lot,” he said. “Her faith in the Lord has taught me a lot.”

“Every day, I’m blessed to be her dad.”

Felony charges

Rock Hill officers caught Kendricks trying to steal a can of potato chips and a can of soup from the Family Dollar on Saluda Street around noon Wednesday, a police report states.

The shoplifting charge from Wednesday, Redfearn said, has a “property crime enhancement” attached because of Kendricks’ criminal history. Court records show Kendricks is a twice-convicted burglar.

The charge for violating the state lottery law, Redfearn said, stems from his cashing in a stolen lottery ticket. The lottery violation charge carries up to five years in prison, he said.

The lottery ticket was stolen during a break-in at the Fast & Friendly Quick Stop on West Main Street on July 16, 2012 – 15 days before police say Kendricks stole $70 from Emily’s donation jar.

Kendricks is not charged with breaking into the Fast & Friendly store.

Rock Hill police also have charged Kendricks with resisting police, Redfearn said, because he fled Monday when officers tried to arrest him.

The petty larceny charge for stealing Emily’s jar, Redfearn said, also has a “property crime enhancement,” which could carry up to 10 years in prison upon conviction.

With the enhancements added to his charges, Kendricks is facing felony charges, Redfearn said.

The Elkinses – who said just days after Emily’s jar was stolen that if Kendricks needed the money that bad they would have given it to him – are looking forward to the summer when Emily expects to be finished with chemo treatments.

Emily is looking forward to finding out next week if the Make A Wish Foundation can help make one of her dreams come true: a trip to Hawaii with Justin Bieber.

Meanwhile, Emily says she’s looking for ways to help other people.

Last month, Emily gave her Christmas money and gifts away to someone fighting a brain tumor. She also bought Christmas presents for 15 children through the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree.

Now, she said, she’d like to find a way to help the families of shooting victims at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Emily wants to wait before raising money or sending cards to Newtown, she said, because families are receiving more letters and packages than they can handle.

Herald columnist Andrew Dys contributed.

Anna Douglas 803-329-4068

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